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Through the Portal

Reasons to be cheerful Part 1

I must start by acknowledging the source of the title for this week’s missive, a salute to Ian Drury and the Blockheads. I thought this was an appropriate source of inspiration as I have been thinking about one reason why we have to be cheerful, we do not have a train in Whitianga. And of course, those blockheads in Auckland do.
 |  Trevor Ammundsen  | 

I know some people like trains and think they can be effective in the modern day. These people are generally socialists and, like trains, belong in the 19th century. Every dog has its day and for trains, those days are in our distant past. The same can be said of socialists but you can still hear their yapping unfortunately.

A week or two ago, Auckland trains had to be stopped as the air temperature was 25 degrees. The Rail people claimed that the tracks were in danger at this high temperature. A tad over cautious I felt as the melting point of steel is about 1450 degrees, so there was quite a lot of leeway for error.

I couldn’t help but think that surely this excuse to cancel train trips was just a cover; possibly they had just given too many drivers the day off, or maybe were running an internal training session on “Consideration of the Public”. Whatever the reason, the 25-degree temperature was surely not to blame.

Auckland has had over 1300 hundred rail trips cancelled from mid-January to mid-February. I thought that number seems far too high, surely the only trip Aucklanders want to take is out of town. Seriously though, that number of cancellations makes the service a pitiful joke; in its worst week over 50 trips a day were cancelled on average. How can the average commuter rely on this? The answer is that they cannot.

The worst part of this joke is that we taxpayers from other regions are being forced to pay for the grossly over budget City Rail Link in Auckland, a project designed to make Auckland’s magnificent rail system even more impressive, enabling trains to go around in circles.

A six-billion-dollar project that will be looking for purpose if trains can either not get there or just break down inside. What do you call a six-billion-dollar hole with a broken train inside? An excavation project? A hole needing purpose? I can see future Mayoral candidates in Auckland suggesting it become a cycle lane, or possibly a light rail track; the idiocy goes on.

The truth is that rail is a nineteenth century technology that struggles for relevance in the modern world.

It has been successful in the past, about 100 years or so ago, but now cannot run without huge taxpayer financial support.

Freight movement by rail is basically a waste of time in this country as you need bulk trips of greater than 400km to make it break even. We don’t have such freight, especially now that the Greenies have cancelled coal mining, so as a result only 6% of New Zealand freight is carried by rail. This is not going to increase, and has actually trended down in recent years.

In terms of profit, KiwiRail declared an operating profit last year but still needed a massive boost from taxpayers to pay for capital expenditure, its operating profit being too low.

The country should just toughen up and get rid of rail. Electric bus systems will handle the commuter issue in metropolitan areas much more efficiently, converting old rail lanes to busways.

The freight industry will easily handle the low percentage that rail carries, so that is no real problem, and the CRL could be repurposed for electric scooter traffic, enabling young people to go around in circles all day long.

And a real reason to be cheerful; the savings made by the government not bailing out rail and covering the capital works can be dispersed to areas such as the Coromandel, who have wisely not installed any trains. I’m sure the mayor would like that.

Thought for the day: I didn’t realise how cold it was today, until I saw socialists with their hands in their own pockets.